INFLUENTIAL NEW ORLEANS AND LOUISIANA WOMEN

Thanks to Rebekah Dobrasko for compiling this information.

Ruby Bridges -- (1954 - ) On November 14, 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges was the first African-American to integrate New Orleans public schools. She attended the first grade at William Frantz Public School completely alone, escorted to school by federal marshals. Her courage was the inspiration for Norman Rockwell's 1964 painting, "The Problem We All Live With." Today, she is the head of the Ruby Bridges Foundation, an organization created to promote parental involvement in public school education.

Oretha Castle -- (1939 - 1987) Castle was a founding member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in New Orleans. She was an active participant in the boycotts and strikes of the New Orleans civil rights movement, and she became the head of CORE. Later in her life, Castle created the New Orleans Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation and helped found Voices of the New Orleans Movement, an organization dedicated to preserving the history of the civil rights movement of New Orleans.

Betty Carter -- (1910 - 2000) A member of the Newcomb College Class of 1931, Carter began a career in journalism alongside her husband, Hodding Carter II. Together they published The Daily Courier in Hammond and later the Delta-Democrat Times in Mississippi. Carter was an active community spokesperson for integration, and her newspapers reflected her beliefs. Later, she returned to New Orleans and worked with Agenda for Children, a group committed to children's rights.

Rosa Keller -- (1911 - 1998) Keller was very active with women's rights and civil rights in the New Orleans area. She founded the Independent Women's Organization as a political group for women. In the arena of civil rights and desegregation, Keller was instrumental in integrating Tulane University, and founded Save Our Schools to keep integrated public schools from governmental closings. In the last years of her life, Keller initiated the Rosa Keller Campus, a program designed to give senior citizens a tuition-free education at any college in New Orleans.

Lindy Boggs -- (1913 - ) A 1935 graduate of Newcomb College, Boggs was the first woman from Louisiana to be elected to Congress. She served nine terms, from 1973 to 1990, as a member of the House of Representatives. In 1976, she became the first woman to chair a national political convention, the Democratic National Convention. In 1997, President Clinton appointed Boggs to be the United States Ambassador to the Vatican.

Edith Stern -- (1895 - 1980) As a Sears and Roebuck heiress, Stern had the financial means to support charities and non-profit organizations. She gave freely to Dillard University, Flint Goodridge Hospital, New Orleans Museum of Art, and the New Orleans Symphony. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Newcomb Nursery School in 1924 and 1925. As the owner of Longue Vue, she opened her home and gardens to the public.

Martha Robinson -- (1888 - 1981) Robinson graduated from Newcomb College in 1909. She became politically active, serving as the first president of the League of Women Voters of New Orleans. She was also very active in the arts and preservation of New Orleans, co-founding Le Petit Theatre, the New Orleans Civil Service League, and the Louisiana Landmarks Society. Throughout her life, Robinson was dedicated to the preservation of the French Quarter of New Orleans and worked tirelessly to make it happen.

Angela Gregory -- (1903 - 1990) The art of Gregory appears throughout the city of New Orleans. A graduate of Newcomb College, Gregory's talent caused the city to commission monuments and decorations for public buildings. As a sculptor, Gregory worked mainly with marble and granite. Her work can be seen today on the exterior and on the interior floor of the New Orleans criminal courthouse, at the Louisiana state capitol, and on McAlister Auditorium at Tulane University. She also sculpted the New Orleans monuments to John McDonogh and Bienville.

Leah Chase -- (1923 - ) As co-owner and chef of Dooky Chase's, a Creole restaurant in New Orleans, Chase was one of the first people to serve both blacks and whites in New Orleans. She has authored a cookbook and is the star of a local cooking show called "Cooking with Leah." In addition to her culinary interests, Chase is a member of both the Arts Council of New Orleans and the Children's Museum, and is an honorary life trustee of the New Orleans Museum of Art. In 1997, Chase received the Times-Picayune Loving Cup for her service to the city.

Caroline Dormon -- (1888 - 1971) As a student of native Louisiana plants, Dormon worked especially with the Louisiana iris. She also planned the landscaping for many homes, including the Longue Vue Gardens and Hodges Gardens. By replanting her favorite Louisiana plants at her home, Briarwood, Dormon created a park and an educational center for botany research. She became the first woman employee of the United States Forestry Service and almost single-handedly established the 600,000-acre Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana. Today she has an azalea named after her in recognition of all her work.

Mary Alice Fontenot -- (1910 - ) In 1962, the first Clovis Crawfish book by Fontenot was printed. This series of children's books star Clovis Crawfish and a group of his friend, including butterflies, spiders, snails, and frogs. Fontenot's books and personal visits to Louisiana schools help teach children about Louisiana nature, Cajun culture, and a little Cajun French. In addition to Clovis Crawfish, Fontenot has written several histories of Louisiana and Acadiana.

Shirley Ann Grau -- (1929 - ) As an English major at Newcomb College, Grau began writing short stories and developing her ideas for novels. Her first book, a collection of short stories, was published in 1955. Grau has published three short story collections and six novels. In 1965, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Keepers of the House.

Rosa Hart -- (1900 - 1964) During her years at Newcomb College and Tulane University, Hart became the first female cheerleader in the nation. She returned to her native Lake Charles after Newcomb and founded the Lake Charles Little Theater in 1927. As the director of the Theater for thirty years, Hart staged many plays for the city and taught many Lake Charles citizens how to act. In addition to her theater work, she individually tutored many students and ran a bookshop called the "3R's Book Shop"--reading, 'riting, and Rosa!

Elayn Hunt -- (1925 - 1976) Hunt became the first woman director of the Louisiana Department of Corrections, serving from 1972 to 1976. During her tenure, she initiated several reforms and programs at Angola and prisons throughout the state. These included abolishing inmate guard positions; opening the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women; restoring "good time" to inmates; closing "Red Hat," the isolation building at Angola; and working with drug rehabilitation. The Elayn Hunt Correctional Center at St. Gabriel was named in her honor.

Clementine Hunter -- (1885 - 1988) The granddaughter of a slave, Hunter was born on a plantation and worked seventy-five years on Melrose Plantation near Natchitoches. She began to paint at the age of 60, then producing over four thousand pictures on a variety of topics--plantation life, still lifes, and abstract paintings. She also wove baskets and made quilts and dolls. Hunter became the first African-American to have an exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Carolyn Huntoon -- ( - ) A physiologist from Leesville, Huntoon worked for 30 years as a scientist for NASA. She was the director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center from 1994 to 1996. In 1992, she received the International Academy of Astronautics Life Science Award, an annual award given for outstanding achievement in the life sciences.

Ida Kohlmeyer -- (1912 - 1997) Kohlmeyer studied at Newcomb College and received a B.A. in English Literature and an M.F.A. in painting. Her art consisted of both paintings and sculptures in which Kohlmeyer created an abstract language of symbols and shapes, much like hieroglyphics. In New Orleans, Kohlmeyer's sculptures can be seen outside the Aquarium of the Americas and in the "Krewe of Poydras" sculpture across from the Superdome.

Mary Landrieu -- (1955 - ) At the age of 23, Landrieu was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1979. She was elected to State Treasurer in 1987. As treasurer, Landrieu computerized the treasurer's office, reorganized the state Bond Commission, and formed the Treasurer's Advisory Committee. In 1997, she became the first woman from Louisiana to be elected to the United States Senate. She currently serves on the Armed Services Committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the Small Business Committee.

Pinkie Lane -- (1923 - ) Lane began writing poetry in the 1960s after reading Gwendolyn Brooks. She published her first volume of poetry in 1972. Elegy for Etheridge, her fifth book of poetry, was published in 2000. Lane became the first African-American poet laureate of Louisiana, holding the title from 1989 to 1992. Lane was also the Chair of the English Department at Southern University in Baton Rouge. In addition to teaching and writing, Lane also enjoys painting, and her work is displayed in her home.

Nellie Lutcher -- (1915 - ) Born in Lake Charles, Lutcher moved to California and began recording music with Capitol Records in 1947. She sang and played the piano, releasing about 28 songs with Capitol, including "Lake Charles Boogie," "Hurry on Down," and "He's a Real Gone Guy." She had many hits that crossed the musical lines of jazz, rhythm and blues, and pop. Lutcher performed all over the United States, including Carnegie Hall, and did two European tours.

Ruth Miller -- (1922 - ) Miller has worked as a Jennings attorney for about fifty years. She became the first woman to serve on the Louisiana Mineral Board and was the first woman elected to be the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors of the Louisiana State University System.

Marie Louise Snellings-- (1912 - 1994) Snellings was on of only a few previous women to receive a law degree when she attended Tulane. She also received a Masters of Law degree from Columbia. Snellings practiced law in Monroe, and served on the Tulane University Board of Supervisors, the Ouachita Parish School Board, and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Snellings was also the author of a cookbook and several children's books.

Ernestine Thurman-Swartzwelder-- (1920 - 1987) As a public health worker in the United States Public Health Service, Thurman-Swartzwelder visited over 60 countries. She specialized in tropical medicine and parasitology, becoming the first woman entomologist in the regular USPHS corps and getting promoted to captain. Her main work was with malaria control in Thailand.

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